Game Day. At most schools, game-day starts on Saturday. However, the University of Notre Dame is not like most schools. The Tuesday before the Georgia Tech game (the first day of classes, as it happened), I chanced to look up into the sky. Circling over my head, attempting to get its sight lines for the impending opener, was the Goodyear Blimp. Now, with that day being the first day of classes, I was somewhat surprised to see Distraction Central floating over my head. But, then I thought to myself, "This IS Notre Dame, after all". At Notre Dame, we don't just have "Game Day". We have "Game WEEK".
Let me give you a general outline of Game Week for the normal student:
Game Week Schedule:
Monday: Classes vary from person to person, but they generally are in the morning or afternoon. A "normal" day, pretty much.
Side Note: A quick note about Classes: the main focus of college is to get an education, which is how it should be. Notre Dame ensures that education comes before football, and that's how it should be. People like to talk about how Notre Dame's academic standards are too high for football, well, isn't that what college is for? To get an education? Yes. Is college just for football? No.
Tuesday: The Goodyear Blimp arrives for it's sight-line preparations, as do tourists and their cameras. Classes continue as normal.
Wednesday: People continue to arrive, as classes continue, and evening activities begin that are prepping for the game.
Thursday: It's starting to kick into high gear, but it's not quite there yet. Campus is flocking with tourists, and bagpipes begin to be heard around campus. Classes, despite the buzz around campus, are just as normal as ever.
Friday: Campus is nearly full of, yep, you guessed it, tourists, "Subway Alumni", ESPN, everybody. Pep rally is in the evening, but there are lots of Irish Football related things that occur AFTER classes end. Classes are a little less organized than usual, but they still continue as normal. However, showings of the movie "Rudy" are abundant around campus.
Saturday: Game-Day. Campus is completely full, and then some. Tailgating parties occur before, during, and after the game. No studying is done today, as it's a day devoted to Irish football.
Sunday: Day to get a lot of studying done, as well as attend religious services and just relax after the mass hysteria of the previous day.
Monday: Cycle begins anew.
Now, for me, I'm in the Band of the Fighting Irish. I play Trumpet. We practice every day from Monday through Thursday for about an hour-and-a-half. Basically, we do a new show with new music and new formations every game. So, we have about 4 practices to get all the music and marching down pat. It's pretty intense, but it's a lot of fun. Anyways, we have basically the same schedule Monday through Thursday as the normal student, but with Band Practice added in from around 6:30-8:00 PM. On Friday, however, we basically participate in everything. We march out from the Golden Dome towards our practice field at 5:00 PM, with lots of people watching our half-hour rehearsal/performance. Then, we march to the pep rally in the Joyce Center, where all the students sit in the bleachers, and various celebrities (such as [Censored] Vitale, Joe Montana, Chris Zorich, Joe Theismann, etc.) speak to the crowd to get them fired up. It's a lot of fun, especially since we play the entire time.
On Saturday, the band practices for a while, and then we do "Concert on the Steps", which usually draws a couple thousand people until we march out from outside the Golden Dome to the Stadium right before the game. THAT draws at least 10,000 people, total. And it gave me chills marching into the tunnel, out into the stadium to perform pre-game. It's an amazing whirlwind of an experience, one that is incredibly hard to put into words.
Then, the actual game begins. The student section is incredible. They stand the entire game, whether we are winning or losing. They do all the cheers with us, no matter what the score looks like. And everybody cheers on the Irish throughout the whole game. Notre Dame football is something else. And, at the end of the game, no matter what the final outcome is, the team and students sing "Notre Dame Our Mother", the school's Alma Mater, as we perform it on the field. It's an emotional, unifying experience that can't be beat.
To sum it all up, a Notre Dame football game is an experience of itself. It's a week-long thing, not just a one-day thing. It's something that can't be matched in college football, not by any team. The spirit and unity that is felt throughout the week is unmatched. To be able to experience this has always been a dream of mine, ever since I was a kid. Many people have dreamed the same dream. But the dream is not really just on going to the football game, it's on experiencing the spirit of the game, of the campus, of the school. It's one-of-a-kind.